Why Psychedelic Drugs Could Eventually Treat Asthma

Researchers continue to explore the anti-inflammatory nature of psychedelics, which, in small doses, may alleviate asthma symptoms.

Evan Lewis-Healey
3 min readJul 12, 2021


Image by Bob Williams from Pixabay

Eleusis Therapeutics has found a potential novel application for psychedelic substances: treating asthma.

The research comes off the back of over a decade’s worth of work investigating the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, to treat mental health issues. But a recent effort by Eleusis and their partners has uncovered small doses may help those suffering from the common respiratory condition.

Psychedelics as Anti-Inflammatory Agents

Psychedelics are structurally similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the body that is implicated in a variety of functions. The effects of psychedelic substances are due to their interaction with the serotonin 2A receptor (one of many types of serotonin receptors found in the brain). Much like a key fits to a lock, psychedelics have a complementary shape to the receptor — once these two ‘bind’ together, these substances may open your brain up to the ensuing psychedelic effects, if taken in a high enough dose.

Previous research has shown that serotonin is associated with the inflammatory response. When there is elevated serotonin, there are likely to be elevated inflammatory markers, including the protein TNF-alpha, which is released as part of an inflammatory response.

Contradictory to this, a study conducted in 2008 found that an array of classic psychedelics — that is, substances that bind to the serotonin 2A receptor — had extraordinarily potent anti-inflammatory effects. Among the most potent was (R)-DOI, a substance structurally similar to mescaline, with subjective effects similar to LSD. These psychedelics seemed to inhibit the release of TNF-alpha, thereby reducing the body’s inflammatory response.

This is an interesting finding, as the inflammatory response is implicated in a range of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. Some researchers therefore speculate that the potent anti-inflammatory properties of…



Evan Lewis-Healey

PhD student at Cambridge University. Studying the cognitive neuroscience of altered states of consciousness | Writer for Psychedelic Spotlight